DP-300: Cloudy With a Chance of Database Failover

Not content with just one exam to pass I’ve gone and done another: DP-300: Administering Relational Databases on Microsoft Azure. This one I nearly passed out whilst doing it but thankfully I passed the exam instead.

This one along with DP-900 completes the two exams I needed to do this year so I am very pleased with both passes and both done first time.

This also means I get another shiny badge to put up on this blog so here it is and yes you can click to verify I’m not fibbing about it:

The Study Plan

I could’ve very much done a copy and paste job on the DP-900 effort I did earlier this month but that would’ve meant that I couldn’t write another witty title and that would be boring.

  1. I have now 6 years experience deploying, patching, configuring, troubleshooting and tweaking SQL Server. In these exams well founded experience and knowledge of what you’re being tested upon helps.
  2. Used the learning path for DP-300 on Microsoft Learn. I’ll admit at this point I did not finish the last two modules on Automation and High Availability but thankfully I did very well on those questions.
  3. Again, used the Measureup practice test and yes some similar or even the same questions came up on the exam. I did start to notice with this test that I began learning the answer by recognising the question rather than understanding what was being asked. The note of caution here is to not rely on this too much as there’s only 122 questions in the bank.

It’s quite a hard exam to do and I found it challenging. Whilst SQL Server is familiar to me Azure SQL Database is completely new. I had a lot to learn in a short space of time but I got through comfortably. If you’re taking the same exam soon then all the best you.

DP-900: Putting the Fun Back Into Data Fundamentals

My last Microsoft exam was back in 2017. Really.

Today I managed to pass DP-900: Azure Data Fundamentals with a passing score of 982/1000.

Should be noted that the contents of the exam changed on 5th May 2022. From the updated skills measured sheet it would occur to me that they made the new format more “fundamental”. That’s not to say it’s an outrageously easy exam. I had to learn a few new concepts but as someone with an interest in SQL Server I enjoyed the learning process.

Here’s the badge to say “I did it”.

The Study Plan

  1. I attended the free Azure Virtual Training Day: Data Fundamentals from Microsoft. Each session was just under 4 hours long and was a pre-recorded video. By attending across the two full days you receive a credit to take the exam for free so not only do you get an intro to the subject you also save £69 for the exam.
  2. Used the Azure Data Fundamentals Learning Path on Microsoft Learn. This was a good source of basic knowledge and a few free labs on Azure were available too. Made lts of notes here to revise with later on.
  3. Subscribed to the official practice test available on Measureup.com. Some questions in this practice test came up on the exam although it must be said that the practice test probably does not reflect the May 2022 changes just yet but keep an eye on the website for more info. I put the test in practice mode and set it to explain wrong answers to strengthen my knowledge and further improve my notes.

Overall not the hardest exam to pass. As long as you understand the subjects in the exam you’ll have no problem passing it. All the best!

Failing 70-411: Administering Windows Server 2012/R2

On Friday 3rd November I failed Microsoft Exam 70-411: Administering Windows Server 2012 R2. First attempt: 580. 2nd attempt: 540. Absolutely gutted to have failed it a second time as I was a lot more confident this time around having revisited everything I struggled with on the first exam. Seems like there’s some wide gaps in my knowledge that I haven’t plugged.

Make no mistake: 70-411 is a difficult exam. It is a very broad test covering a variety of scenarios and tools.

It’s also come to my attention that Microsoft no longer allow you to substitute 70-463 (Implementing a Data Warehouse) with other exams such as 70-411 to contribute towards the SQL MCSA which means a pass would have been a hollow victory.

What’s Worked?

Course 20411D – Delivered by QA Ltd in Leeds. The instructor was very knowledgeable having real-world knowledge and exam experience. Notes taken around this proved useful.

Previous Job – lots of experience in managing Windows Server 2008. IT strategy would have seen the business go to Windows Server 2012 R2 and implement some of the new technologies introduced in the newer OS. The interest alone was inspiration to boot up some test VMs and make an effort to learn it.

Exam Ref 70-411 Administering Windows Server 2012 R2 Book – Compared to the SQL training kit books it’s a bit thin but it’s still covers enough of the key topics to be useful.

But What’s Not Worked?

MeasureUp practice exam – although this has been useful for 70-461 (Querying SQL Server 202/2014) and even more so for 70-462 (Administering SQL Server 2012/2014) this has not helped much for 70-411. I was getting 80% and above in the practice exam. In 70-461 and 70-462 once I started hitting 80% (which in MeasureUp terms is a pass) I felt confident I’d hit “the barrier”. The exam difficulty result wasn’t hugely off the experience in the practice exam.

With 70-411 I think that the MeasureUp exam is very far off. Some questions came through on the actual exam that covered topics I’d just not hit in the MeasureUp exam. I also noticed some terminology differences and obvious typos which given how much these exams cost is a bit disappointing.

Job Change – whilst I love my new job it did have an unfortunate side effect: I use Windows Server much less regularly. I therefore don’t have to continuing real-world experience building up. Whilst I do interact with Windows Server every day as a SQL technical consultant it doesn’t cover things like managing Active Directory or setting up Windows Server Update Services. I felt I was getting caught out by the more in-depth questions particularly where PowerShell administration is involved.

To summarise I think my approach had gaps due to real-world experience, dependency on practice exams and the choice of subbing exams out. My next steps towards netting that most coveted MCSA will be to examine Data Warehouse exam 70-463 and (most likely) make an attempt on that.